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Align Technology, Acacia Research, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet highlighted as Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – August 04, 2017 – Zacks Equity Research highlights Align Technology (NASDAQ:ALGNFree Report) as the Bull of the Day Acacia Research (NASDAQ:ACTGFree Report) as the Bear of the Day. In addition, Zacks Equity Research provides analysis on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL Free Report), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN Free Report) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL Free Report).   

Here is a synopsis of all five stocks:  

Bull of the Day:

In early May I wrote "Align Technology (NASDAQ:ALGN Free Report) is one of the strongest medical technology success stories of the past year, with 27.8% sales growth in 2016 and an expected 25%+ top line ramp in 2017."

That story is now being upgraded after another strong quarterly report from the maker of the revolutionary Invisalign "teeth straighteners."

On July 27, Align delivered a nearly 4% revenue beat and a 16% EPS beat. Q2 revenue increased 32.3% year-over-year and 15% sequentially to $356.5 million.

Invisalign case shipments for North America and international were up 27.6% and 37.4% y-o-y, respectively.

Sales Growth is Clearly Aligned with Global Trends

This kind of growth is what made me buy ALGN for my Healthcare Innovators portfolio in early May.

In 1999, Align Technology pioneered the invisible orthodontics market with the introduction of the Invisalign system and by 2001 had manufactured one million unique clear aligners.

The company is well-established as the leader among US dental professionals for alternatives to traditional braces. So it's the international growth that has me and other investors so excited.

As the emerging middle classes of China and India are exposed to Invisalign solutions, that 30%+ sales growth is expected to continue.

Clear Guidance for Straighter Teeth

Looking ahead, the company anticipates Q3 revenue in the range of $355 million to $360 million, above the analyst consensus last week of $341 million.

Align sees Q3 Invisalign case shipments in the range of 231 thousand to 234 thousand.

The company also projects Q3 EPS in the range of $0.78 to $0.81, about "in line" with consensus.

That EPS guidance is probably another "under promise" effort that the company will easily beat given that big boost in sales guidance.

Analysts Raise Estimates and Price Targets

Top line sales projections for this year and next are now up to $1.4 billion and $1.69 billion, representing 29.3% and 21% annual growth, respectively.

Bottom line EPS forecasts for this year and next moved up to $3.40 and $4.12, representing 41% and 21% annual growth, respectively.

It looks like the analysts were surprised once again by the strong growth trajectory of Align products. BofA/Merrill analysts were so caught off-guard that they had to upgrade ALGN shares from Neutral to Buy.

BofA/Merrill analyst Steven Valiquette also raised their price target to $193 from $175. The analyst believes the Invisalign growth story is in the early innings as Align has a first-mover advantage that is poised to increase market share.

ALGN has consistently been a Zacks #1 Strong Buy since it traded below $60 in 2015. As long as Align keeps delivering that international growth, I'm certain I will be revisiting this story every quarter.

Disclosure: I own ALGN shares for the Zacks Healthcare Innovators portfolio.

Bear:

Acacia Research (NASDAQ:ACTG Free Report) has consistently been a Zacks #4 Rank (Sell) or #5 Rank (Strong Sell) for most of the past four years. I have chosen the name for Bear of the Day numerous times in this period to warn investors that their money was better off somewhere else.

In January of 2016, I wrote "The stock has fallen from $30 to new 7-year lows this month under $4." And the driving theme of falling shares was consistent quarter after quarter: analysts were forced to lower EPS estimates as the fundamentals deteriorated.

After a 2016 earnings recovery where shares climbed back above $7.50, they are making new lows under $4 this week, and back to the Zacks Rank cellar.

Is There Opportunity Now?

Here's what I wrote on May 26 when I featured Acacia as the Bear of the Day...

Not only is the company poised to deliver a big double-digit earnings decline from last year's $0.45 profit, but the 2017 full-year consensus has declined in the past 30 days from $0.19 to $0.15.

Part of the problem too is that so few analysts are even providing estimates for this company anymore. In fact, 2018 estimates have only recently been established and by only a single analyst who is calling for a rise in profitability to $0.28 on the year.

This low visibility is reflected in the company's last earnings "surprise" which was negative and sizable. ACTG delivered a loss of 13-cents when the consensus expectation was a profit of 1-cent.

(end of May 26 excerpt)

Guess what? The earnings decline has gotten worse. After another big earnings miss, the 2017 EPS estimate has fallen to -$0.05 this week, projecting -111% annual "growth."

And full-year revenue estimates have dropped to $75 million, for a decline of over -50% annually.

A Business Model In Decline?

Acacia Research Corporation, through its subsidiaries, develops, acquires, and licenses patented technologies. It assists patent owners with the prosecution and development of their patent portfolios, protection of their patented inventions from unauthorized use, generation of licensing revenue from users of their patented technologies and enforcement against unauthorized users of their patented technologies.

For years, the fluctuation in their earnings was blamed on the nature of the business model where patent protection fees and litigation wins and costs were so variable. But the overall trend has still been one way: down.

For these reasons, ACTG has been a terrific short position for several years. When the Zacks Rank locks on to a consistent earnings decliner, the shorts don't let go.

So, until this earnings evaporation stops and reverses, it's probably best to keep this portfolio of patents out of yours.

Additional content:

Apple: Not Just a Hardware Company Anymore

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPLFree Report) has been talking up its services prospects over the past year or so, and the business does look like it's got legs.

Not just as an app eco system that supports and feeds its bigger hardware business, serving as the glue that keeps users deeply engaged, but also as a legit business in its own right. In fact, it seems to be the other way round now, with the installed base of a billion-plus devices driving App Store sales, Apple Music subscriptions, Apple Pay, Apple Care, iCloud storage and whatnot.

Apple doesn’t want to talk about individual contributions yet, but has said that total paid subscriptions across its service offerings jumped 20 million in the last quarter to 185 million.

At 27 million (according to Apple in June), Music subscriptions are still a small part. But despite the growing competition from Spotify, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZNFree Report) and others, Apple can potentially sell the service to more than a billion customers today.

Apple Pay, the wallet that allows you to pay in-store, in-app and on the web, also has great potential. According to a March 2017 survey by pymnts.com, up to 24% of mobile phone users have used Apple Pay, with a similar percentage saying they didn’t know how it works and around 39% saying they use it when they remember to use it. An increasing number of people find it easier and faster to use than swiping a card.

According to a study by Juniper Research in April, Apple Pay will nearly double its user base to 86 million this year from 45 million in 2016. New locations (Apple added Italy in May and will have UAE, Denmark, Finland and Sweden operational by year-end. Total signups from Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay will be 150 million meaning Apple’s share will be about 57%.

iOS 11 will also help because with that will come Apple Pay peer-to peer payment in the U.S. Most of the revenue currently comes from international markets, so increased penetration in the U.S. also offers growth opportunity.

But the crowning glory and the main driver of the 22% growth in Apple’s services business is the App Store. Management said that according to App Annie’s latest report, it remains the preferred destination for customer purchases, generating twice the revenue of Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGLFree Report)-owned Google Play (Google also has an ad-supported version, so this may not be the best, apples-to-apples comparison).

To Conclude

The growth in Services is a really big deal for Apple, because it will mean goodbye to the seasonal fluctuations that are a part of a hardware-focused business, especially when the concerned hardware make good holiday gifts. Or at least, the seasonal impact will be reduced by the predictability of the services business because it typically grows over time as customers use more and more services.

Apple shares carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), but you can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here

More Stock News: Tech Opportunity Worth $386 Billion in 2017

From driverless cars to artificial intelligence, we've seen an unsurpassed growth of high-tech products in recent months. Yesterday's science-fiction is becoming today's reality. Despite all the innovation, there is a single component no tech company can survive without. Demand for this critical device will reach $387 billion this year alone, and it's likely to grow even faster in the future.

Zacks has released a brand-new Special Report to help you take advantage of this exciting investment opportunity. Most importantly, it reveals 4 stocks with massive profit potential.

See these stocks now>>

About the Bull and Bear of the Day

Every day, the analysts at Zacks Equity Research select two stocks that are likely to outperform (Bull) or underperform (Bear) the markets over the next 3-6 months.

About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous analyst coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

Strong Stocks that Should Be in the News

Many are little publicized and fly under the Wall Street radar. They're virtually unknown to the general public. Yet today's 220 Zacks Rank #1 "Strong Buys" were generated by the stock-picking system that has nearly tripled the market from 1988 through 2015. Its average gain has been a stellar +26% per year. See these high-potential stocks free >>.

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Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Apple Inc. (AAPL): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Acacia Research Corporation (ACTG): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Align Technology, Inc. (ALGN): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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